Doug Polk is very well known within the global poker community not just because of his achievements playing poker but also because of his controversial stance on subjects in and outside of the game.
Polk is someone who likes to say what he means and not mince words. The Upswing Poker founder doesn’t hold back when it comes to expressing his views especially on certain topics that interest him and the poker community in general, and oftentimes this leads to a heated debate.
Improper Use of “Top Poker Player”?
Polk ignited a brand-new discussion on the true definition of “top poker player”, and what it takes to become one. This after CNN referred to Maria Konnikova as “top poker player” in one of their articles on health.
Polk tweeted a screenshot of the article’s title which contains the phrase “top poker player”. Beside it is another screengrab of Konnikova’s Hendon Mob profile, showing her total live earnings of $311,368. Polk’s tweet didn’t sit well with a number of fellow pros, including Jamie Staples who was among the first people to call him out because of his Twitter post.
Staples said Polk was only making a fuss about it because the person involved was a woman. In his response, Polk said gender has nothing to do with how accomplishments are measured.
Konnikova’s Poker Background
Konnikova herself has never claimed that she is among the world’s top poker players. She developed interest in the game after reading John von Neumann’s work on game theory which highlighted the game of poker. In 2016, she literally started from scratch when she began playing the game. That’s when she reached out to Erik Seidel and convinced him to become her mentor.
In 2018, Konnikova captured the PCA National event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure No-Limit Hold’em Championship for $84,600, her biggest score to date. She then pursued a full-time poker career, competing in more tournaments with higher stakes.
Outside the felts, Konnikova is a New York Times best-selling author. She’s also written pieces for multiple magazines and online publications and has also worked as a television producer.
She has a Ph. D in psychology from Columbia University. Today, Konnikova actively participates in women-focused poker initiatives.
Sexism in Poker
Polk has no issues with Konnikova’s poker background and does not intend to discredit everything that she has achieved in the game. What he’s taking aim at is the common practice of media outlets of using exaggerations in a bid to attract more readers.
For Polk, the phrase “top poker pro” should be used properly, because according to him, calling amateur players top players is likewise an insult to the game. Reasonably, it’s quite difficult to put Konnikova’s name among the list of elite pros considering what she has achieved so far in the game. Polk reiterates that his opinion isn’t tainted with gender bias.
But Staples insists that women go through a more difficult path than men when it comes to pursuing a poker career. There’s a need to empower them and give them much-need support, and that “nitpicking” on irrelevant issues won’t help.
Amidst all the debate, Konnikova issued a statement, saying she had no knowledge about the “top poker player” reference in the title prior to it being published. The Russian-born author and poker player said she does not consider herself as a top pro, and never claimed to be one. Liv Boeree could attest to that as well saying that Konnikova did not push for the top poker player headline.
Polk’s tweet not only triggered a debate on what really constitutes a “top” player; it once again placed the long-standing issue about sexism in poker under the spotlight.
Women remain underrepresented in the game amid efforts to narrow the gender disparity that currently exists in the game. Among the main reasons why a lot of female players ultimately decide to drop their poker dreams is because of the challenges they face when playing at the tables and the way they are treated by their male counterparts.
The title of the CNN article has now been edited. The “top poker player” has been replaced with “poker expert”.

TightPoker Staff

TightPoker Staff

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